*Content Warning: This piece contains a reference to an eating disorder, which may be triggering to some.*
How are you doing?
It’s a question we’ve been more intentionally asking each other, and ourselves, over these last few weeks than perhaps we ever have. The uncertainty, the distancing, the chaos… everything keeps changing so fast.
And I know at least for me, it has felt nearly impossible to keep up. But a bright spot in that fog has been the purposeful steps we’ve taken to interact, to check in, to authentically share. It is a kindred togetherness that I hope we maintain after this crisis has passed.
This is certainly a challenging time, and I’m wondering if, like me, some of you have noticed some old wounds resurfacing. For me, this was a surprising, albeit natural, reaction to the presence of uncharted stress.
Primarily, I observed some of my previous disordered eating patterns attempting to make a comeback — urges that have not presented in years subtly began to take shape again as I attempted to process the chaos around me. Thankfully, I have been able to take note of it, to acknowledge its presence, and to validate the way in which my body is trying to cope.
Instead of shame, I choose curiosity; instead of ignoring, I choose noticing. But this does not mean that I am not also frustrated with its presence.
The reality is that stress of any kind is going to ask a lot of ourselves, and “coping” does not inherently mean that we are taking care of ourselves well. It does, however, mean that we will react in the ways in which we have learned —for better or worse — to feel the least amount of pain.
And if we are not attending to ourselves and choosing strategies that truly encourage wellness, we are likely to fall back on old patterns that have given us short-term relief yet have not helped in the long-term.
But healing is a continual process, not a one-time achievement, and if you’ve noticed old wounds resurfacing, this does not mean that you have not also been intentional about your health. We are complex beings, and as much as you can, I encourage you to view yourself with curiosity, respect and compassion while you process and cope.
For me, the presence of escapist binge eating urges does not mean that I have not also experienced healing, and it does not indicate that I am completely ignoring self-care amidst the current stress. It is information — it serves as a barometer for my current level of stress, and it encourages me to pay closer attention. It reminds me that I am the whole of my experiences, and it is ok if old pieces come forward.
Attending to those things intentionally but without panic, I can most effectively keep caring for myself and choosing what helps me most. And I can recognize how the work I have already done is just as vital for me now; there is incredible power in knowing that we have the capacity to handle the old wounds, and that they can, in fact, be healed.
For many wounds, both past and present, a helpful salve can often involve the bonds we have with each other. Therapists, healers, family, friends, acquaintances and strangers can all have such an incredible impact on well-being — in these engagements, we offer each other the opportunity to speak to our internal experiences, receive validation and understanding, laugh, cry, smile, hug… so much goodness can happen within these interactions.
And while we now may have all been prescribed temporary distance from one another, I have observed more intention in our relationship with each other than I ever have. It seems that more of us truly see each other, acknowledging one another with care and compassion.
So, if you are also experiencing old wounds during this strange and difficult time, know that you are not alone. Now more than ever, may we continue to more universally carry each other through hardships, and let us authentically speak to our experiences with kindness and without fear.
We’re in it together.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free, and confidential support at 1-800-273-8255. For assistance in accessing mental health services in your area, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers 24/7, free, and confidential support at 1-800-662-4357.